A blog series on Shopper Marketing

By Cyndi Pyburn

The potential of shopper marketing is rooted in its focus on gathering insights about consumers when they are in the shopping mindset and applying these insights to influence their purchase decisions.  However, time and time again, there is much confusion around a consumer and a shopper insight.  These terms are often used interchangeably.  But they are quite different.  Here is some clarity around the two.   Research findings that tease out and clarify the underlying truths….

  • in the pre-shopping state are consumer insights
  • at the point-of-purchase are shopper insights

If it’s easier, you can think of the consumer as the ‘user’ and the shopper as the ‘chooser’.

These insights however, together, need to translate into a great shopper marketing idea – one with the ability to attract, engage, motivate and lead to product purchase.  Ultimately, if used effectively, these insights can improve loyalty and increase spending.

Let’s illustrate with a product we can all relate to — jam.  In ‘The Art of Choosing’ , Sheena Iyengar discusses the limitations of too much choice.  Research demonstrates that consumers want a variety of flavours in their jam selection – they love the idea of choice (consumer insight).  However, they overestimate their own capacity for managing these choices (shopper insight).  To prove the point, in a test, Iyengar set-up a jam tasting booth near the entrance of a specialty grocer.  Every few hours, the booth switched between offering an assortment of 24 jams and assortment of 6 jams.  As might be expected, 60% of the incoming shoppers stopped when 24 jams were displayed, but only 40% stopped when six jams were displayed.  However, when these same shoppers went to the jam aisle to pick up a jar, the shoppers who had seen only six jams had a much easier time deciding what to purchase.  Researchers have discovered that a small assortment helps narrow down choices whereas a large assortment leaves people confused and unsure of their own preference.  Of those who stopped by the large assortment, only 3% ended up buying a jar of jam – far fewer than the 30% who bought jam after stopping by the small assortment.

Enter shopper marketing solution(s) — Iyengar recommends four solutions:

  1. Cut shopper alternatives – the aspect of ‘less is more’.  When Procter & Gamble narrowed 26 varieties of Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo down to 15, sales jumped by 10%.
  2. Create confidence through recommendations – in some categories, you can’t get away with offering a small selection.  In offering a wide variety, you have to help shoppers navigate the complexity so they will have a positive choosing experience.  Helping shoppers to rank and structure their choice gives shoppers confidence in their choices by giving them easy access to expert reviews and recommendations.
  3. Categorize shopper options – the LCBO does a great job of this.  Wines are categorized by white and red, by country, by varietal.  Vintage wines have their own domain.
  4. Condition shoppers for complexity – shoppers can handle a large number of options, if they start off slowly and move toward more complex choices, all the while building their confidence.  A good example is car options.  Moving from simple choices – automatic or standard to engine size to bountiful options such as colour – both interior and exterior – consumers can handle their colour preferences as they have progressed from low choice to high choice.

Next time you are shopping in the jam aisle, take note of how many choices you have?  How is the shelf organized? ….. can you easily find your brand?  flavour?  Can you easily make a choice?